Alcohol advertising in the UK is subject to some of the most stringent rules in the world.
They place a particular emphasis on protecting young people. Alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by reflecting youth culture or by linking alcohol with irresponsible behaviour, social success or sexual attractiveness.
These mandatory rules, as independently regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) apply across all media, whether offline or online.
Which brings us to social media. How does an alcoholic beverage brand successfully run a social media channel, full of appealing content and personal engagement while sticking to the right side of the regulations?
Lets take a look at some of the most popular brands in the UK.
Heineken has a wide-ranging, multichannel content marketing strategy that takes in various partnerships with film, music and sporting events. This gives Heineken a great deal to chat about on Twitter.
At the moment it’s particularly focused on promoting its ‘Wherenext’ Twitter app, which allows followers to tweet the account and then receive information on events that are happening around them using geolocation.
— Heineken (@Heineken) August 8, 2014
Heineken also offers regular commentary on European football games. Not to make gross generalisations or anything, but if you’re following Heineken, you might also be into football.
It shares other followers and brands’ content that has a particular relevancy to its own image.
— Heineken (@Heineken) June 18, 2014
And Heineken even takes a visual approach to fighting its PR battles.
— Heineken (@Heineken) August 12, 2014
All in all Heineken has plenty to talk about as it creates its own content, sponsors a variety of events all year round and regularly engages with its followers.
It’s also not shy of a newsjack or two.
— Heineken NL (@Heineken_NL) September 25, 2014
Carling’s strategy currently surrounds its #CarlingOfficeEscape campaign. This contest earned the company its most shared response.
— Carling (@carling) October 17, 2014
Similar contests using the above hashtag also do well for the company.
— Carling (@carling) October 13, 2014
Whether promoting the idea that skiving off work to drink a pint of Carling is irresponsible or not is up for debate, but then again this is only going to appeal to adults in current employment, so it’s on the safe side of regulations.
Again, aligning itself with sporting events gives Carling something to talk about and inspires shareable content.
A little birdie told us there’s an exciting sporting event this weekend… pic.twitter.com/O6ni1ok7UT
— Carling (@carling) September 26, 2014
Its other newsjacking content is somewhat less successful. Would you expect a beer brand to make a full 1m30s long advert to say ‘congratulations on the birth of your baby, Kate and Wills’? The poor YouTube view and sharing figures speak for themselves.
— Carling (@carling) September 8, 2014
Carlsberg has recently been slyly skewing cultural trends with a series of humourous content-based tweets.
Happy 203rd birthday to our founder, J.C. (aka the original hipster)! pic.twitter.com/RVLffiG4nP
— Carlsberg (@carlsberg) September 2, 2014
— Carlsberg (@carlsberg) October 16, 2014
It also has a strong focus on its heritage, by regularly scouring the vaults for interesting pieces of vintage advertising.
— Carlsberg (@carlsberg) October 16, 2014
Carlsberg of course loves its sport and it also loves making infographics.
— Carlsberg (@carlsberg) September 16, 2014
This love of sporting statistics also comes into play come match day when Carlsberg’s Twitter feed fills up with stat-based football punditry.
Foster’s now exclusively tweets from its Foster’s Funny Twitter account. Here you’ll find the two Australians from its TV commercials repurposed into various memes and awkwardly Photoshopped images.
Aussie Rules: Live life well. Be her shining knight. pic.twitter.com/ThwbMTZKbx
— Foster’s Funny (@fostersfunny) October 8, 2014
No expense spared. No news item unjacked.
Congrats to Willo and Kazza. Need a hand with baby names? pic.twitter.com/PIS9uLSROR
— Foster’s Funny (@fostersfunny) September 8, 2014
On the positive side, using two established characters that already fit the tone of your products provides Foster’s with endless content.
On the negative side, if you’re just relying on the same characters then you’re running the risk of putting followers off who are getting sick of them. If you scroll back through the site, you’ll see that this has been going on for six months now.
Previously Foster’s had used content incredibly effectively, commissioning brand new original programming from Steve Coogan and Vic & Bob.
It was all quality stuff and changed my perception of the brand from one that traded on offensive stereotypes for laughs to one that’s given some of my comedy heroes from the nineties a brand new outlet.
This feels like a step backwards.
Guinness has many years worth of marketing wins in the bank, thanks to its groundbreaking and classic television adverts.
Its Twitter feed doesn’t exactly set the world alight in the same innovative way, instead it offers old-world warmth, comfort food and nostalgia.
— Guinness GB (@GuinnessGB) October 13, 2014
— andy hunting (@andys_kitchen) September 26, 2014
There is also some shareable branded content here…
Presenting the Guinness Pretzel, inspired by our German friends at Oktoberfest. Want a bite? pic.twitter.com/dqxGRQINSK
— Guinness GB (@GuinnessGB) October 5, 2014
…with simple and direct ‘retweet bait’. Although perhaps that term is unfair, as the following is so specific I doubt it would be shared by anyone who hadn’t visited.
Retweet if you’ve visited the Guinness Storehouse! pic.twitter.com/UFGVJAxlLL
— Guinness GB (@GuinnessGB) September 7, 2014
Guinness is also one of the few brands here that makes a point of regularly making the ‘enjoy responsibly’ message clear and includes a link to drinkaware.co.uk.
— Guinness GB (@GuinnessGB) June 25, 2014
Heineken’s media manager Elizabeth Hodson is one of the speakers at Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing in November. Our two day celebration of the modern marketing industry also featuring speakers from Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.